It is one of the most frequent questions asked by Etnatracking visitors, especially foreigners. Visitors that maybe have seen other active vulcanoes like the Tongariro in New Zealand, where going to the top is very easy and well indicated.
Unfortunately for them Etna is managed differently and grudgingly we reply always in the same way: to date it is not possible to reach the summit craters of our beloved vulcano.
Let's quickly see why.
First of all let's say that you can find the info on our website and they are all written in the section dedicated the central crater. In the last years the access to the areas considered most dangerous on Etna has been regulated by the ordinances of the prefecture of Catania.
The main problem for the visitors is that these ordinances are not easy to find on the prefecture website. Looking carefully we have found a page with a list, but as you can see there is only one ordinance on Etna updated on the 13 May 2015 that forbids from going over 2600 m height in the south and 2800 m in the north. Right now the situation is different and since there is no vulcanic activity you can get to 2900 m both in the north and the south, to be more specific to Torre del filosofo and Punta Lucia. What is unacceptable is that in the last five months up to now we have not been able to find any official info anywhere, but we are sure that you can reach up to 2900. How can a tourist find his way in this mess?
There is a risk zone map that highlights the ordinary critical areas, but it does not show the other areas that usually have restricted access. Let's try to interpret the areas for you:
- Ordinary critical area (area in yellow on the map): it is a big area that goes from the summit craters, beyond the torre del filosofo and punta Lucia arriving points up to the initial part of the Bove valley. To date, you cannot go beyond this area, not even if with an alpine guide or a volcano guide, whatever the volcanic activity level. In theory you could ignore the interdiction and continue beyond the fences, but remember that:
- If they catch you they will make you go back and in theory they could also fine you
- If they do not catch you and you hurt yourselfon the way, you are on your own
- Currently from Torre del Filosofo there is a lavic barrier that has cut for about 400 m the access to the path. You have to walk for 400 m on the sharp lava , what we call Sciara. We guarantee you that if you fell in the middle of a rough lavic barrier like this you would hurt yourself quite a lot.
- The Bove valley is far lower in height, but on it there are frequent lava flows and there are sudden landslide of lava material and / or avalanches caused by the eruptions. You could go down into the valley from the top or going in from the bottom monte Fontane, but be careful with the restricted areas
- Extension of the interdictions after vocanic activity: as soon as the volcanic activity increases slightly, the areas going south from the arrival point of the cable onwards (beyond 2600 m) and going north from the Pizzi Deneri observatory onwards (beyond 2800 m) become interdicted. In case of eruption with outlet on the eastern side, normally every excursion inside the Bove valley in also interdicted.
- Common sense area: indipendently from the interdictions, always be careful. Etna has been capable of lava fountains up to 1000 m high, in this case the wind can carry big lapilli even km away from the craters.
A consideration: does it make sense to go to 2900 m if then you cannot go to the top?? We do not think so. At 2900m height you will only find extinct craters, similar to the Silvestri craters or to the Sartorious mounts. If you feel like it, you can walk following our paths (or use the cable) just to see the lava desert, but paying 60€ each to use the cable and cross-country vehicles, and stopping at 2900 m we do not think it is a very good deal.
Etna is not only craters and eruptions, it is a much wider and more surprising world. If you cannot get to the top, we think you could invest a day to know Etna better thanks to our guided excursions